Archives : March 2004

2004 March 1

Dong Resin rates The Jesus Movie 'A+' for Prank Potential

Now even more Jesusier: Jesusfish Gal : "And what was so great? What was the best part of the movie for you?"

dong resin : "Well, the best part was when they tore up Jesus."

Jesusfish Gal : "..........."

dong resin : "They totally wale on that motherfucker!"

Terse Jesusfish Gal : "Thank you."

dong resin : "Thank you!"

See also King of the Spews.

Bob Barker, call your office

I've had a brain-frying few days of expensive decision-making, but it all comes down to this: Jon and Amy just gave me a lift down to Newton Centre so that I could take possession of and drive home in my




Ack. I still can't quite believe that's what I decided on -- until I really started looking I took it for granted that the smart money was in a car that was a few years old and had done most of its depreciation already. It seems not to work that way these days: I could not persuade myself that the prices people were asking on used cars were enough of a discount to make up for the fact that someone else had already driven the 50,000 easiest miles off the car.

Also, apparently I had too much money in my accounts. This issue, at any rate, has now been dealt with.

So what did I get? A 2004 Hyundai Elantra GT hatchback, silver, with a leather-wrapped baseball stickshift and a Kenwood CD/MP3 player. Woot.

Tomorrow I may drive to New Hampshire, just because it's there. Anyone want to go for a road trip?

2004 March 2

The Operatic Tragedy of Super Mario

You must go watch this now, or else in three years when someone says (and they will): "Shit, that's almost as good as The Operatic Tragedy of Super Mario!"; and someone else replies: "Oh, fuck, yeah, that was genius"; and a third person says in an Italian accent: "Luigi, my brother, I mourned you too long. Koopa will pay for this day!" and everyone starts laughing -- when all of that happens (and it will), you won't know what they're talking about unless you watch these:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

It'll be like not having seen The Terrible Secret of Space.

Via d/blog, via MeFi.

2004 March 3

The booklist

As I've just taken the trouble to catch up my notes on my last three months of reading, I'd like to draw people's attention to the booklist in the margin. You know, because I'm sure you all care about what I think of what I've read.

2004 March 12

Weirdest spam evah

I just got the following mail in my mailbox this morning.


2004 March 13

Relaxing by cleaning up

I think this is the first weekend when I've had nothing scheduled and/or urgent to do since Christmas. I think that means my life is officially Back To Normal. I'm happy.

In a related-but-not-quite-the-same event, I have now been living in this apartment long enough that "I just moved in and I'm still unpacking" no longer feels like an legit excuse for why the place still has boxes and crap piled everywhere. You know, I think this is because the place was neater last weekend, and I've been kind of a lazy bastard for a week. I've spent a few hours this morning alternating between sorting stuff out -- rearranging my office was a big one -- and surfing the net. Will probably continue this for the rest of the afternoon.

I'm developing a fair shopping list of stuff I could really use -- another filing cabinet, a desk lamp that doesn't look quite so Nineties Grad Student Refugee, a real desk, and so on -- but I can't allow myself to go spend any more money this week. My 600-Mile Shopping Trip last weekend has got to be the last unnecessary spending for a while.

(Okay, it was actually a trip to Montreal to visit my brother, and get a new visa at the border while I was at it. But I was hardly thrifty in the bars, and on the way out of town I stopped in to the mega-Loblaws -- all I intended to pick up was a few bottles of Clamato and some decent plum sauce. Ended up on a $120 tear through the store grabbing all kinds of things that are either impossible or just too expensive to buy in Boston or I just happened to know I needed. All-dressed chips, spicy Bick's pickles, Montreal-style bagels, cutting boards, Quebecois beer, chocolatine pastry, and some boring housewares to inflate the price. It felt distinctly odd getting home after a 300-mile drive and having the first thing I needed to do be: unload the groceries.)

Now I must get back to fixing up my place the old-fashioned way. It's a beautiful afternoon and it kind of feels like I ought to be outside, but I can suppress that impulse by reminding myself it's still only 4C. And it feels good and productive to get some tidying up done -- I'm so frigging old. Every square foot of cleared floorspace makes the Baby Jesus laugh.

2004 March 18

The Moon may be responsible for life on Earth

Interesting nugget in the New Scientist:

No Moon, no life on Earth, suggests theory: A billion years later when life is thought to have arisen, the Moon was still much closer to us than it is now. That, plus the Earth's much more rapid rotation, led to tidal cycles every two to six hours, with tides extending several hundred kilometres inland, says Lathe. Coastal areas therefore saw dramatic cyclical changes in salinity, and Lathe believes this led to repeated association and dissociation of double-stranded molecules similar to DNA.

When the massive tides rolled in, the salt concentration was very low. Double-stranded DNA breaks apart under such conditions because electrically charged phosphate groups on each strand repel each other.

But when the tides went out, precursor molecules and precipitated salt would have been present in high concentrations. This would have encouraged double-stranded molecules to form, since high salt concentrations neutralise DNA's phosphate charges, allowing strands to stick together.

These unrelenting saline cycles would have amplified molecules such as DNA in a process similar to PCR, says Lathe. "The tidal force is absolutely important, because it provides the energy for association and dissociation [of polymers]."

Pretty much pure speculation at this point, but very cool nonetheless. Tides flowing several hundred kilometres inland! Boggle.

I'm a Ninja Dwarf!

Tom Coates has a two-axis scheme for classifying people that has made my day:

From pirate dwarves to ninja elves...: I have always considered the profound distinction between ninjas and pirates to be an absolute one. One was either ninja or pirate - there were no inbetweens. One personality type was skilled and proficient, elegant and silent, contained and constrained, honourable and spiritual. The other type loud and flamboyant, gregarious and unrestrained, life-loving and vigorous, passionate and strong. I thought all people must pledge their allegiance, or be categorised accordingly.

The other day at work, another binary pair was presented to me - a co-worker who doesn't declare people pirate or ninja, but instead elf or dwarf. For him, humanity falls into doers and thinkers - elves being elegant and timeless, conceptual and refined, abstract and beautiful while dwarves are practical and structural, hard-working and no-nonsense, down-to-earth smiths and makers. It's a view of the world that's expounded a bit in Cryptonomicon.

Via Joey deVilla.

2004 March 19

Electron Band Structure In Germanium, My Ass

This is why I became theorist. I had to stay the hell out of the lab.

Electron Band Structure In Germanium, My Ass: Check this shit out (Fig. 1). That's bonafide, 100%-real data, my friends. I took it myself over the course of two weeks. And this was not a leisurely two weeks, either; I busted my ass day and night in order to provide you with nothing but the best data possible. Now, let's look a bit more closely at this data, remembering that it is absolutely first-rate. Do you see the exponential dependence? I sure don't. I see a bunch of crap.

Christ, this was such a waste of my time.

Banking on my hopes that whoever grades this will just look at the pictures, I drew an exponential through my noise. I believe the apparent legitimacy is enhanced by the fact that I used a complicated computer program to make the fit. I understand this is the same process by which the top quark was discovered.

It also like to point out that this is the authentic voice of the experimenter, sharply to be distinguished from the obnoxious absurd pompous tone adopted by most writers of fake lab reports. (Courtesy Electrolite.)

A followup to last year's flaming grape observations: Jason Barnes has refined the procedure somewhat and managed to produce not just sparks but a coherent glowing ball of plasma from the sliced grapes. I never managed to get it to this point because I suck in the lab.

2004 March 20

Shilling for my employer

I started at VistaPrint a couple weeks ago, and am still having a lot of fun. The place has great energy -- I suppose that's not unrelated to the fact it's doing well as a business.

But hey, aside from that -- Vista offers free business cards as a promotional thing, where "free" means "actually you have to pay $5.25 s/h, but that's still pretty cheap". I just got a set for myself to use as personal contact cards ("Colin Roald, Gentleman Adventurer") -- I think it's more stylish than giving real job-related business cards to people I meet at cons or parties. They look pretty nifty, and I think I prefer the free matte cardstock to the glossy stock anyway.

[pope card]

I thought I'd mention it because I think quite a few of you either do freelance work where you can actually use business cards, or just are the sort to have other uses for cheap pope cards.

(Oh, and if anyone is tempted to buy anything more than the "free business cards" offer, let me know -- I can get you a discount.)

2004 March 31

Blast from the past

Fifteen years ago, in January of 1989, Petr Nedved became the last hockey player to defect from Czechoslovakia -- in November of 1989, revolution swept through the Warsaw Pact countries, leading to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Czechoslovakia doesn't even exist anymore, and hasn't since it broke up in January of 1993.

The newspaper account of the defection at the time read like this:

A Czechoslovakian athlete with dreams of playing in the National Hockey League defected in Calgary Monday.
Petr Nedved, the 17-year-old captain of Chemical Works Litvinov, which he led to victory in the Mac's major midget hockey tournament, went to RCMP headquarters to say he wanted to stay in Canada.
The rest of the team left Calgary as scheduled on a 10:30 a.m. flight to Toronto.

I grew up hearing stories like that. It's hard to believe it's been as long as fifteen years, and it's hard to believe it's been only fifteen years. Time is weird like that.

I'm reminded of this by Colby Cosh, who dug out the story after watching Nedved play the other night. He has more; I don't really have anything interesting to add to what he wrote, but I was struck enough by the nostalgia to want to point it out to people. Go read his piece, Last of the wall-jumpers.

When Canadians get nostalgic for the Cold War, it never takes long to come back to hockey.